From gritty cities to making art with historical geniuses, there are many layers to the artist known as Bonnie and Clyde.
Seamlessly stitching together personal photographs with painted, printed and textural elements, Brighton-based artist Bonnie and Clyde creates surreal dreamscapes that are subtly layered with deeper meanings and secret stories. We delve into the artistʼs work to discover the processes and places that inform her meticulously crafted worlds…
artrepublic: Starting at the beginning, why did you decide to work under a pseudonym, and why opt for ʻBonnie and Clydeʼ?
Bonnie and Clyde: Well it’s for a number of reasons, and it changes significance on different days. Today’s answer is that when I started out I felt like it was a darkly romantic and ambiguous name, and I was hoping the work could be seen without preconceptions such as gender. I could hide behind the misconception that it was two people making the work as I was a nervy character at that point.
artrepublic: You work out of a Brighton studio, but your images evoke warmer climates. Do you feel more of an affinity with foreign landscapes?
Bonnie and Clyde: I do love to see new places and I need an element of spontaneity as I have a lot of stability and routine in my life. I get real wanderlust and need to see things from different perspectives to re-engage with myself. It’s not necessarily about warmer climates – it’s more wherever I get to go on holidays or trips. I loved visiting New York, Tokyo and Iceland as much as LA and Italy. I like to mix the beauty with the grit. It’s kind of building a dreamscape subconsciously so I understand what I want from life.
artrepublic: The photos you use within your work show all sorts of locations, spaces and environments. What kind of places inspire you?
Bonnie and Clyde: I think I like to visit places with a strong life force or culture. Often it’s about the people or environment – their energies excite me. I get freaked out by old distressing places that seem to have been home to misery, but I also find desolate places fascinating; I am drawn to photographing places where there is stagnant energy – I don’t know why. Maybe I’m trying to give the place some energy back in a way, or can feel it in a latent sense. My favourite cities have always been by the sea though; I feel like the sea is a leveller – it’s meditative. I also love the architecture and colours of a place. And food and music play a massive part too. The more time spent looking at your collages, the more we find within them. Have you ever hidden a secret message in your work? Yes sure, I think there are many hidden meanings for me, but often I don’t recognise them myself for a while. A lot of pieces have an element of love and loss, fear and freedom. There was this amazing chalk rant/ statement on the ground in Venice Beach that began: ‘THIS IS NOT A GOOD MORNING MR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. ANOTHER BLACK MAN PUT TO DEATH. 7 OUT 9 WITNESS RECANTED THEIR TESTIMONIES. NO WEAPON, NO BLOOD SPLATTER, NO POWDER RESIDUE FOUND. GEORGIA WEEPS...’ It was so impassioned and moving, and someone from the government was washing it off with a hose. That was the starting point of my piece ‘Recreation’. Off the back of that, with so many layers within your pieces, how and where do you begin? If I need to kick-start a piece, I’ll look through my photo library and pick something that jumps out at me. I often think ‘Oh, I’ll do a piece on Italy’, then I’ll end up with a pic that I’ve wanted to use for ages but from New York or somewhere. That’s it… no turning back; I just follow my feelings and mood and see where it takes me in the first days that I’m working on a piece, until it becomes something. Then it’s a matter of honing it; painting, layering and giving it life until it feels complete.
artrepublic: It often feels like there are secret stories and threads woven into and through your images…
Bonnie and Clyde: Yes, I think its all one long thread of discovery. It’s cathartic; maybe once a problem has been solved the story shifts. I had a lot of phobias in my past, and as they are released my work changes too.
artrepublic: You use a range of different mediums but, if you had to only work with analogue or digital…
Bonnie and Clyde: I definitely need both please! If pushed for only one though, it would have to be analogue; there’s more warmth and life. It would be a cold hard world with digital only. I often work by trying to make digital feel analogue and vice versa.
artrepublic: Your work has a very distinct aesthetic and colour palette. Have you always worked in this way?
Bonnie and Clyde: I think I have various ongoing sections of work that I dip in and out of. They have developed in a timeline since university; I studied 3D design at Kingston Uni with a focus on furniture and lighting, and used to do paintings and collages of all my designs for the course work! When I left uni I moved into graphic design, producing work for arts venues, club nights and festivals. Then, through my partner who was a music and arts journalist, I began photographing numerous musicians and artists for magazines and newspapers, which took me to great locations as well as immersing me in Manchester’s incredible nightlife/ gig culture. After all this, I got the screen-printing bug after seeing a fantastic Warhol/ Basquiat exhibition, and started a clothing design business alongside all the other aspects of design I was working on. When I moved to Brighton I started screen printing myself and then I brought my painting and photography back into the work. It does feel like a journey. I would like to get more involved with food and music – it’s all part of one creative path, all making stuff with your hands.
artrepublic: Tell us about the work you’re exhibiting in your show with artrepublic.
Bonnie and Clyde: As well as series of small, light-hearted collages and studies that will be shown together on one wall, I'm releasing two special very limited edition prints. Printed on anodised aluminium, they are architecturally heavy images adapted from a series of small originals I made a couple of years ago. One, titled ‘BBQ Heart’, originated from a merging of buildings that I photographed as I was leaving Las Vegas. I wanted to do something with it for a while; printing it onto aluminium and playing with glitter and glazed elements against pops of colour excited me. The other piece was adapted from a few photos taken in Mexico. The colour is the main player here too. Both are quite romantic pieces. You’ll also see a recent, joyous print release called ‘The Soundscape’, which has a summery vibe. It features elements from a friend’s life, including architectural, musical and performance-based images, which are painted and spliced together with flowers and buildings shot during a trip I took to San Francisco and LA.
artrepublic: Finally, as your pseudonym is a dynamic duo, who would be your dream collaboration?
Bonnie and Clyde: So many people, but it needs to be someone who likes to collaborate to start with! I’d say: Faile, for their sense of scale, composition and fun, Andy Warhol and Basquiat for obvious reasons… I’m also a fan of film directors such as Wim Wenders, Darren Aronofsky, Pedro Almodovar and Spike Lee, as I think their creative vision is amazing. What about a night out with The Kills, Jehnny Beth, The xx and my friends? Is that classed as a collaboration? Otherwise, take me to New York’s late 70s and early 80s No Wave scene with The Velvet Underground and Nico – I’d love to make art/ some noise with those geniuses.